This musical documentary concerns the Rolling Stones and their tragic free concert at Altamont Speedway near San Francisco in early December 1969. The event was all but destroyed by violence that marked the end of the peace and love euphoria of the 1960s. The night began smoothly, with the supercharged Flying Burrito Brothers opening up for the Rolling Stones and performing the truck-driving classic "Six Days on the Road" and Tina Turner giving a sensually charged performance. But on this particular evening, the Stones made the fateful (and disastrous) decision to hire the Oakland chapter of the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang as bodyguards and bouncers. It was a foolhardy, careless choice that turned the night into an unmitigated disaster; halfway through the Stones' act, the Angels killed one black spectator, and injured several others who were present (including Jefferson Airplane's lead singer Marty Balin). In the film, we watch Mick Jagger -- ere an ebullient, charismatic performer of bisexual charm -- reduced to standing on stage like a frightened child with his finger in his mouth in wake of the violence. Unsurprisingly, the Grateful Dead refused to perform after the violence erupted; the picture ends on a despairing note, with the Stones repeatedly watching a film of the murder. Celebrated documentarians Albert and David Maysles directed and Haskell Wexler shot the film, with heightened instinct and control; as a result, this film is considered one of the greatest rock documentaries ever made. Stones songs performed include "Brown Sugar," "Under My Thumb," and "Sympathy for the Devil."
- According to Albert Maysles (in 1999 while he visited UCLA), George Lucas was one of the cameramen for this shoot. Unfortunately his camera jammed after shooting about 100 feet of film that night. All of his footage was deemed unacceptable and wasn’t used in any version of the final product.
- After all the negative press of the supposed jinx behind the song “Sympathy for the Devil”, The Rolling Stones didn’t perform the song for six years.
- Contrary to popular belief, Meredith Hunter was not killed during the performance of “Sympathy for the Devil”. He was actually stabbed just as The Rolling Stones started the first verse of “Under My Thumb”. The version of “Under My Thumb” that appears in the film was actually played after the killing with the stabbing moved to the end of the second version of the song.
- In the original version, played to theatre audiences, Mick Jagger used foul language on two or three occasions – appropriate for the moment but later censored out for TV broadcast with a “guitar strum” sound overdub to block the “offending” word. Only early copies of the film contain the original uncensored dialogue.
- A rough demo version of the classic “Brown Sugar” is heard in the sequence detailing The Rolling Stones stay at Muscle Shoals. According to ‘Bill Wyman’ in his book on his days in the band, the Stones performed the song for the very first time in front of an audience at Altamont.
- Besides Ike Turner and Tina Turner, the other opening act on The Rolling Stones tour was B.B. King, who does not appear in the film.
- After viewing footage of the stabbing of Meredith Hunter police identified Alan Passaro, a local Hell’s Angel, as the man who did the stabbing, arrested him and charged him with murder. At his trial, however, closer examination of the footage showed that Hunter had pulled a gun before Passaro pulled his knife. Passaro was acquitted on grounds of self-defense.
- Michael Lang, who was one of the promoters responsible for Woodstock, was also one of the promoters for Altamont. He is seen being interviewed about the building of the stage, as well as onstage during the concert.
- The concert originally was originally going to be held at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, but the city wouldn’t give a permit after hearing that The Rolling Stones would be on the bill and feared a huge crowd. The concert was then moved to Sears Point (now Infineon) Raceway in Sonoma, but after a dispute with the track’s owner, the stage and all the sound equipment was moved to Altamont within 24 hours before the concert was to take place.
- Besides “Brown Sugar”, two other songs that were unreleased at the time are heard during the scenes filmed at Muscle Shoals. They were “Wild Horses” and “You Got to Move”. Those songs, along with “Brown Sugar” would be released on the classic “Sticky Fingers” album that came out two years later in 1971.